Niilo Jaaskinen, the advocate general of the European Court of Justice, made his opinion over a case in Spain which dates back to 2010.
It concerned an individual who asked Google Spain to remove links to a newspaper article which mentioned his name in connection with a property auction ordered by the Spanish government due to unpaid social security debts. The individual argued that the case, dating back to 1998, had since been resolved.
The Spanish Data Protection Agency upheld the complaint against Google but the search engine appealed the decision to the Spanish High Court, which referred the case to the ECJ.
Although the advocate general’s ruling is not binding on the ECJ, the court ruling usually follows his independent advice.
He said data protection authorities cannot require search engines to remove information from the indexes, as they cannot be held responsible for third-party information appearing in their search results.
Jaaskinen also said rights to correction, erasure or blocking of data only apply if there is incomplete, inaccurate, libelous or criminal information.
Although based on the current Data Protection Directive, the ruling puts a major spanner in the works of the EU’s “right to be forgotten” proposal.
The measure has already been branded “unworkable” by many, including Google and both the UK Government and the Information Commissioner’s Office.
Culture Minister Ed Vaisey said of the plans: “How do we enforce the ‘right to be forgotten’ when data can be copied and transferred across the globe in an instant?
“No government can guarantee that photos shared with the world will be deleted by everyone when someone decides it’s time to forget that drunken night-out. We should not give people false expectations.”
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